PayPal co-founder and tech billionaire Peter Thiel on Monday offered a jaw-dropping defense of his decision to bankroll wrestling icon Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker for publishing a sex tape featuring him.
“If you’re a single-digit millionaire like Hulk Hogan, you have no effective access to our legal system,” he said. “It costs too much. This was the modus operandi of Gawker in large part it was to go after people who had no chance of fighting back.”
The declaration came as Thiel was speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to tout the presidential bid of GOP candidate Donald Trump.
Thiel spent at least $10 million supporting Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker. Thiel had been engaged in a personal feud with the website for years. As a result of the lawsuit, Gawker was driven out of business.
Fordham Law School professor and criminal justice expert John Pfaff was quick to note that in 2007, many states’ entire budgets for indigent defense — money allotted to provide legal counsel to those who cannot afford it — is in the single-digit millions.
Pfaff then went on to note that all states combined spent $4.5 billion on indigent defense in 2007, noting that someone of Thiel’s net worth could increase that total by 50 percent if he wanted to support people who actually lack legal representation. He also cited Amazon and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos as another billionaire who could effectively bankroll the entire indigent defense system:
(Disclosure: First Look Media Works, The Intercept’s parent company, supported Gawker in its legal battle with Hogan.)